Floydian Slip (FS): Roger Waters is in the middle of a revivial tour of "The Wall" — playing to rave reviews. And there's a new book out by "The Making of Pink Floyd The Wall" by artist Gerald Scarfe. He is a world reknown political cartoonist, illustrator, designer, filmmaker and his place in all things Floyd is more than secured by, among other projects with the band, his work on "The Wall." So we're very glad to welcome Gerald Scrafe to the show. Thanks for speaking with us.
Gerald Scarfe (GS): It's a pleasure.
FS: I should tell you, in case you don't already know, that your handwriting is, among anyone's in the world, the most instantly recognizeable among Pink Floyd fans.
GS: (Laughs) I've written all over everything now. I've written all over "The Wall!" But also when Roger (Waters) was advertising this particular concert, he had my handwriting projected onto the buildings — a saying by Eisenhower about every gun that is built robs from the poor, robs from the needy. And so I wrote that, and it was projected all over New York, Los Angeles and various other cities. So I'm scribbling all over America now, too.
FS: We're going to get to the "The Wall" in just a minute, but I thought it might make sense to start at the beginning with Pink Floyd. When did you get involved with the band? It was before "The Wall."
GS: It was before "The Wall," yes. I think it was during "Wish You Were Here." The guys saw some work that I'd done in animation for the BBC. I went to Los Angeles, and I did a little, small film — an animated film — lasting about 20 minutes. In which I did everything American I could think of at that time — which was John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Statue of Liberty, Playboy magazine, Walt Disney, Mickey Mouse, ice cream sodas — all things that I thought were American. And I had them all flowing into another — morphing into one another.
Apparently the guys saw this on TV here in Britain, and Roger said to Nick (Mason), "We've got to have this guy on board. He's fucking mad!" So that's how I got introduced to the group. And thereafter I did small bits of animation for them, in which I took almost daily to their gigs. I did a little bit of animation — more likely weekly, I guess — and they'd just kind of jam it in wherever they'd think it'd work. And by serendipity, it sometimes seemed to flow with the music. Nick told me the eye will make an association. And the eye and the ear with make an association between sound and vision. You put two together, you can kind of make them work. So, that's how it all began.
FS: When you first got the call from the band, had you heard of Pink Floyd? What was your impression of the band before I met them?
GS: Yes, of course, I'd heard of Pink Floyd, but I can't say I was a Pink Floyd fan, or I could not say I was not a Pink Floyd fan. I'd just heard of them. When they contacted me, I went to meet them here in London — all four of them in a room. I think we were in Nick's house in Kentish Town area of London. I didn't know what I was going to meet, but they were all surprisingly civilized. (Laughs) I don't know what I expected really. And they were very sensible — very kind of straight forward. So I was happily surprised.
They asked for some animation immediately, and I said, "OK," but I didn't do anything about it. I didn't know how to handle it, or what to do. They then took me to see "The Dark Side of the Moon," and I was so impressed by the theatricality of that on stage. There's this stooker that comes from the back of the theatre and crashes on stage, just as it does in "The Wall." The theatricality of it really got me. And I thought, I can illustrate a lot of stuff here.
They wanted me. Nick very kindly says it in the book, to employ me at that point was a step up for them, too. Because they'd just started to make big money with "Dark Side of the Moon," and they wanted a kind of "name" artist on board. And that was me.
And then Roger finally came to me many years later, and said, "I've just written this thing, 'The Wall' — I knew he was doing it — and he wanted to play me these raw tapes. So he found a synthesizer and put it all onto tape, and he came to my studio in Chelsea here in London and played them, to me.
And it was kind of an awkward moment when he finished, because, what do you say when someone just plays their whole life out to you? And I didn't have anything adequate to say. I said, "Oh, well, yeah. Well, you know. That's great!" You know. And then there was a kind of awkward silence, and Roger says, "You know, I feel as though I've pulled my pants down and shit in front of you." Because, I feel so vulnerable, having poured everything out to this one guy, who was me. Anyway, and then Roger decided at that point that we should make an album of it — he would make an album of it, and then a concert.
FS: So you knew at the beginning that this would be more than just an album.
GS: That was the plan. We didn't know how much we'd pull off. And then we wanted to get as far as the movie, which we finally did. But it was at that point that he planned it. So we worked together for many, many months — a year, I guess. We'd play a lot of snooker together, which is kind of like an English pool game, and we drank a lot of beer together. And we conceived "The Wall" — he, the music and the lyrics, of course, the important part, and the vision is mine — my interpretation of his ideas.
FS: I wonder where you got the inspiration for the characters. You've done a lot of political cartooning, in which you're characterizing actual living people. But for "The Wall," where did you come up with the teacher and the judge — just from the music itself?
GS: Well, I guess it was my imagination, because, you know, I thought I wanted to make the teacher very symbolic and not too much like a real character, because real characters don't have the longevity that lasts as long. And I wanted something that would stick in the memory — a kind of weird teacher. And quite a simplistic one. I had to eventually make inflatables, and they had to be, therefore, pretty simplistic.
Of course it's impossible for an artist to know where it all truly comes from, but it has become apparent to me — I've written this book about the making of "The Wall" and the putting together of "The Wall" — it's kind of like a history of how the whole thing as conceived and brought to fruition. And I realized as I was putting that together that in actual fact the vision you see is not Roger's, it's mine. But it's my interpretation of what I thought Roger's life was like.
FS: So Roger didn't really have any direct influence on your art? He sort of took what you gave him?
GS: Yes, he's very open like that. He said, "I have the philosophy that if I hire an artist, I hire him for what he does. I'm not about to try and change it. That would be ridiculous." So when it came to something like the forces of oppression that we were trying to do, I invented, I designed the hammers. They just came into my head one day as the most unrelenting, cruel piece of machinery — a vicious hammer. That wasn't Roger's idea. It was his germ of the idea, but he didn't think of them as hammers. He was very supportive as soon as he saw something like the hammers, he would say, "That's it. We've got it." And I think, in the instance of the hammers, he actually wrote, "Hammer! Hammer! Hammer!" into the lyrics. So it was slightly a two-way process. Not very much. Mainly Roger was leading, and I was just illustrating, really, everything that I thought he would see.
FS: The hammers have become such an icon of "The Wall," as well — especially when they're marching across in fields of thousands and thousands. You mentioned your book. I read the book last week, and enjoyed it thoroughly ...
GS: Thank you.
FS: One of the things that struck me — one of the things that I think is the best part of the book is, like you said — it's the entire history. You see the earlier works and how they morphed into becoming the art that Floyd fans know instantly.
FS: It seemed to me some of the earlier drafts, not all of them, were a little more graphic. There's an illustration of bodies hanging from nooses along the stage. There's one of the teacher vomiting into the mouths of students. I wonder if there was any sort of conscious decision to tone things down near the end.
GS: Not at all. I don't think it was any conscious decision of that type at all. There are some pretty vicious images in the movie. There are skulls being crushed and people being executed — all sorts of things are in there. Very sexually explicit flowers, you know? And so I don't think it was anything — I think especially when we got to the movie, because of the kind of differences between us all, it pushed us in to excess. There was a lot of angst and infighting over the movie ...
FS: Somewhat legendary, I should say.
GS: Yeah, well looking back now, I can see when Alan Parker came in, as a movie director, he wanted to make the movie and direct it. Roger and I, who'd already invested three years of our lives putting it together, weren't about to let that happen. We weren't about to relinquish our power. As Alan himself said, "You put three megalomaniacs in a room together, and what do you expect? You're going to get trouble." But I think a lot of that paid off in the film, in a way.
And as you can see in the book, Alan came to my studio here in London and we talked over these times, and I've got to say, 30 years later, it doesn't mean a damn thing. It's one of the good things to feel philosophical about, if you have any real bad moments. With the passage of time, hopefully, it won't be so painful.
FS: I saw a quote from Sir Alan just last week, he was speaking at an event, and I'll probably paraphrase him, but he said something along the lines of that was the most miserable experience of his career.
GS: (Laughs) It was. When Alan came in and, naturally, wanted to direct it, I found myself driving to Pinewood Studios, which is where we finished the movie — which is where they make the James Bond films over here, Pinewood — I would find myself about 9 o'clock in the morning driving in my car with a bottle of Jack Daniels on the passenger seat. I'm not a heavy drinker, but I had to have a slug before I went in in the morning, because I knew what was coming up, and I knew I had to fortify myself in some way.
FS: We're talking with Gerald Scarfe from his London home via Skype. He is the man responsible for the artwork and animations at appeared on and in Pink Floyd's "The Wall" album, stage show and 1982 feature film. His new book is "The Making of Pink Floyd The Wall."
We have a copy to give away, if you'd like to enter the drawing, head to floydianslip.com to register.
Another track from "The Wall" followed by more with Gerald Scarfe, in just a moment.
FS: This is "Floydian Slip" — all things Pink Floyd. Our special guest this week, "Wall" artist and animator Gerald Scarfe. You're a cartoonist for the London Sunday Times and The New Yorker. You've done that for a very long time ...
FS: That sort of stuff has a very short shelf live. You do it, and then the next issue takes it place before too long. Unlike "The Wall." We're looking at 30 years now. These characters are still around — you're still working with them. I wonder if that's a blessing or a curse? What's that like?
GS: It's great. As you say, most of my work in newspapers, like all news, is fleeting. It's topical. It's here today and gone tomorrow. One time I'm drawing Nixon, another time I'm drawing Bush. And they all pass on and go into the (laughs) wherever they go! And so, then people lose interest in them. I mean, there are historians and people like that who are interested in recording of historical things graphically. But with "The Wall," you're right, these creatures are still around.
I still meet people who say to me, "Wow, you worked on 'The Wall'?" And I'd say, "Yeah." "That's fantastic! Did it change your life?" "No, no, it was like a job." "Whoa! It sure changed mine." (Laughs). So, I think that it struck a nerve. It stuck some sort of nerve, and I don't know what that nerve was. I wasn't aware of what we were doing, and I'm not sure Roger was. But I'm very pleased to have a cult movie with my name on it.
And when I went to see the show in Madison Square Garden I got the same rush from seeing my work up there and the fans enjoying it. It's entertainment on a gigantic, Roman colosseum spectacle style. It's a show everybody should see. Even if you're not a Floyd fan, I've heard people saying, you should see this show, because it's like a gigantic piece of theatre. You can't fail to be not affected by it.
FS: I saw the show just two days ago in Montreal. And I was not in the good seats, I was very far back, but even from that distance the inflatables looked huge. I can only imagine them up close.
GS: They are gigantic, huge things!
FS: Working with these characters so long after you first created them, is it like looking at old photographs of yourself? I always imagined it must be like, "I can't imagine I did that. Was that really me?"
GS: Yes, there is that aspect of it. In this particular instance, Roger and I worked on the new edition of the show, and I've added lots of graffiti and another thing I did was to redesign the inflatables to make then a little more sophisticated in such that they move better: Their heads can swivel and the arms can move.
FS: So those are new inflatables we're seeing in this tour?
GS: They are. The others, I guess, have perished — being of that type of material. I think there's one of the teacher in the Museum of Rock in Cleveland. I've seen pictures of that. But no, they're new ones. But your question, "Is it weird looking back." Yes, it was. When I wrote this book, it had a very kind of strange effect of going back over all that period of time. And also I had a weird feeling that I was almost snitching on my pals — telling stories about the guys. And I thought, "How am I going to handle this?" And I wrote everything I could from memories, and some of the memories are not very nice, because the band was splitting up at the time, and as I say Alan Parker and I were not the best of friends at that time.
The best thing I thought was I'll write it down and see how I feel about it once I've written it. Some of it I took out some of the more unpleasant bits. But in general it's a pretty accurate account of what happened back stage.
I've been with the group nearly 40 years, I guess. I've known them. And they're still good pals. I had dinner with Nick day before yesterday. And I'm seeing David after the weekend. And I was with Roger in New York, just a couple weeks ago. So I see them all the time. We're in touch. And, of course, to me they're ordinary guys. I was in the restaurant with Roger in New York and some guy came up to me and he said to me, "Wow! Is that Roger Waters?" And I said, "Yeah." And he said, "Ah, it's not every day you see a rock god, is it?" And I thought, "That's not a rock god. That's Rog!" (Laughs) Of course to millions of people, he's an idol.
FS: Sure. When you first got involved with the band, was there any culture shock moving from the world of the type of person who sat at a desk and drew cartoons and sketches into the world of rock and roll?
GS: Well, I've always been what my wife called a kind of "show biz artist." I like my work to be seen, and I used to make films for the BBC — live action films in which I appeared. I wrote them and appeared in them. I always designed for the theatre, opera and ballet and West End theatre plays and so on. Musicals, ice shows — I've designed a lot of stuff.
I do remember Roger saying, "You're a rock and roll artist now." And I said, "Well, I'm not really out there with 20 thousand people begging for me." But it was great when the flowers come on or something and they all stand up and "Whoo-hoo!" That's the nearest I'll get to being Tom Cruise of whatever it is.
FS: So you didn't really experience much rock and roll debauchery, so to speak?
GS: Well, no, I'm not really a druggy. I mean, I think a lot of people when I first did this stuff, said, "Hey, man. What are you on?" Well, I'm not. I'm on alcohol, I guess, but not on anything particular hard or anything. Of course there are drugs backstage and one has the occasional bit of something or other. But I was an asthmatic as a child and I think drugs to me mean something to do with a medical condition. I was so sickly; I was continually being given drugs. So they don't have the same romantic allure that they might have to some people.
The Floyd, I think, were a fairly kind of low-profile rock group. They were not your average rock band. Even the way they came on stage. They would just suddenly be there. They wouldn't come on to huge firecrackers and all that stuff. They're very straight-forward — now extremely rich, of course — English middleclass people.
FS: I read that Roger used to tour — probably still does — with his golf clubs.
GS: Yes. He loves his golf, and still plays snooker. I used to ski a lot with Roger, and he's very, very precise about everything he does. He's very in control, you know? I'm a skier who's kind of what they call an intermediate. Sometimes I'm OK; other times I'm all over the place. But with Roger, he's always OK. He's always controlled. I think it's that control that's brought him to such perfection in his work.
FS: I've talked to a couple of people who have worked with Roger, and one of them described him as "a very hard taskmaster."
GS: Yeah, he doesn't suffer fools gladly. If someone screws up, then he gets upset about it. Because he thinks that people should do their jobs properly. A lot of people call him hard and so forth, but he's got another side to him when you know him, of course.
FS: How long did it take you to put this book together?
GS: It took me about — it must be six months, because I had to go and find all these drawings that hadn't been used — drawings that were inspirations but never came though. Then I went back through old diaries. But as Nick Mason said, "You're no Dr. Johnson," because it's very, very sparse and spare and at most it says, "Roger, 12 o'clock. Snooker." Those are the entries in my diaries. But I was able to piece together things backwards — almost like putting a jigsaw together, which is fascinating. Because you suddenly remember, "Ah, that wasn't 1982. That was 1986!" Things your memory does to you, until you actually lay out the timeline. Quite weird.
And then I was very, very lucky to get all of the guys to support me and give interviews for the book. I showed each of them one by one all the pictures I was putting in and then we discussed it. Roger was particular helpful because he was in the inner circle. David was always more interested in music I think. And he says he was happy for the visuals and the theatricals to be there, but he felt Roger did that better than he did, so he was happy to concentrate on the music.
Nick had a huge input. Rick was a very quiet guy. I liked him, but he was sort of shy or something. And I can't remember him saying much about the visuals, but I think that was just more shyness than lack of interest.
It's the authentic — they all backed it. They all supported it.
FS: Getting them all to come together and to support one thing is kind of difficult these days.
GS: Very difficult. They all live independent lives. They don't live with one another. So yeah, I was impressed to be able to get them all together after 30 years.
FS: We're speaking with "Wall" artist Gerald Scarfe via Skype. His new book is "The Making of Pink Floyd The Wall," in bookstores now. Some music and then more with Gerald Scarfe, after this.
FS: You're listening to "Floydian Slip," an hour of Pink Floyd. A special guest on this week's show — for only the third time in our 20-year history — we're speaking with a guest on this week's show: "Wall" artist Gerald Scarfe.
You mentioned you had to rework the inflatables for this current tour that Roger's on. Was there other animation work you had to tweak for this tour?
GS: Well, yes, because the animation didn't fit the wall. The wall is now huge.
FS: The wall's gotten bigger!
GS: It's got big. Originally the animation was done for what they call "academy" size, which is a normal cinema screen shape. And originally when we came to do the concert, I had to put three projectors side-by-side to project the hammers marching. It was actually three images thrown by the three projectors. They were all side-by-side. In this case I think Roger wanted it to be way across the wall — no joins, nothing. Although I think we now have seven projects, it is one image — the hammers marching across the whole wall. Rank, upon rank, upon rank of them. A lot of the work that was done — and I wasn't particularly involved in it, but I knew exactly what was happening — was just to adapt my animation to a new format. And a lot of that is done on the computer, of course.
FS: When you did the original animation, you weren't using computers it all. It was all done by hand.
GS: All done in the old Walt Disney style. There are 12 drawings every second that flash before your eyes. And in some very, very slow animation, like the flowers, for instance, I think there are 24 drawings every second, which gives that very, very slow movement as they grow up and envelop and copulate. And each of these drawings probably would have taken two days. So it's incredibly labor intensive and very expensive.
FS: How large was your team on that? You did not draw every single frame.
GS: Oh, God, no! I couldn't possibly do that, no. I mean, I would still be drawing now. The team at one point was 40 I'd guess, and then at certain times I would reduce it to, say, maybe 15. Then at the end, I think it was just like 10 or 12 of us doing the final bits and pieces. It depends. As the volume of work decreased, as we were just polishing it, then we would drop people.
I'm an impulsive artist, and I make my drawings for the newspapers — of course, being against a deadline they have to be done quickly. But when it comes to animation, I always say, if you shout "Action!" in January, you don't say "Cut" until December or something. It's such a long period.
FS: I say this as a compliment, but your work has given me nightmares.
GS: (Laughs) Well, it gives me nightmares, too. But this is my way of getting my nightmares out on paper. At least I can get my rocks off on paper.
FS: The book is 'The Making of Pink Floyd The Wall' by Gerald Scarfe. It's $29.95 in bookstores everywhere. And we have a copy to give away on this week's show. Enter the drawing go to floydianslip.com.
Thank so you much for joining us. It's been great to talk to you.
GS: It's been good to talk to you. OK, bye everybody.
Gerald Scarfe interview
Oct. 22, 2010
Nov. 5-7, 2010
Listen to the interview (27:27; MP3)